Weather VSI

“[...] vigorous weather systems may create abrupt changes [...] when one air mass replaces another with distinctly different properties.“

Weather VSI, p. 41

Rain running down your face; the taste of salty on your lips; a fierce winter wind blushing your cheeks. We experience weather every day, it feels familiar to us. But weather is a phenomenally complex physical process. To grasp at least a bit of all the physics behind weather, I decided to read the Weather VSI.


Weather is basically big chunks of air moving from one place to another place. These chunks of air can be hot or cold, wet or dry, and everything inbetween. It‘s a simplifcation, since air molecules (oxygen, nitrogen, ...) move around freely and don‘t want to be classified into chunks. But it‘s a useful mental model. These chunks of air move around for various reasons, for example air that is heated by a hot surface rises. Or air moves away from high pressure to low pressure areas. Chunks of air interact with each other and are influenced by the environment (like mountains) and that‘s why things can get really complex.


I found the Weather VSI, so far, the worst VSI given it‘s a topic I am interested in.

IMHO a good introduction to a topic

  • is pleasant to read,
  • provides simple yet useful mental models, and
  • enables the reader to learn more.

The very short introduction to weather fails in points 1 and 2. I found the book too ambitious. Too densely written. It tries to cover too much ground. Instead of more content, I would have preferred more text explaining fewer topics, but with more vivid and memorable language. The book is very technical. It‘s of course okay to use technical words, so I found it took me some time what other books do better. A good introduction introduces new words more than once. In a good introduction, a complex sentence is rephrased in simpler words or examples are given to help the reader.


I am wondering if text is the best medium to teach something dynamic as weather. Weather is one of those topics that are difficult to grasp when you are limited to flat and linear text. You can read many pages of how weather fronts mix and which heights the clouds form and how the pressure changes over a certain area. But instead you can also watch a video or some other animation, which will you can grasp so much quicker.